Floors in stores start moving

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Supermarket floors will take on added dimensions next month as Floorgraphics, the company that began selling ad space on store floors three years ago, tests ads with animated graphics and sound.

In the two-month, 75-store test, five package-goods manufacturers will compare results among stores using unanimated floor ads, animated versions and ads with a combination of animation and sound.

Participants include Campbell Soup Co., which will advertise its Prego Pasta Bake line of meal kits, but Richard Rebh, CEO of Floorgraphics, wouldn't name others. Procter & Gamble Co., a frequent user of conventional floor ads, will also participate, according to an executive familiar with the plan. Gillette Co. participated in a trial run of animated ads at Carrefour stores in Brazil last year as it launched its Mach III razor, Mr. Rebh said.

Mr. Rebh said his research shows static floor ads increase sales 15% to 30%, and he believes ads with animation and sound will do better. If all goes well in this and a second round of tests in November, he plans next year to put "Flooranimation" in as many as 4,000 of Floorgraphics' existing network of 13,000 stores. Planned for 2003 are ads with scrolling text, which will allow marketers to change messages as often as they want and customize them by store.

Even without light and sound, Floorgraphics has gotten package-goods marketers to drop more dollars on the floor lately. Sales were up more than 130% to $60 million in fiscal 2001, ended June 30, Mr. Rebh said. Ultimately, he believes floor advertising can be a $250 million to $300 million business.

"Floorgraphics can build awareness and hit people with the right message at the right time," said John Yengo, a former P&G marketing director who is now principal with Barefoot Advertising, Cincinnati, which has created floor campaigns for P&G brands. "Especially with new product introductions it can be helpful, because it draws attention to the shelf even if you're not getting [off-shelf] display support."

Animated ads aim to draw more attention, using motion sensors to trigger animated effects when shoppers pass within 20 feet. Ads with sound direct shoppers to step on a touch pad for audio pitches.

"It's a movement toward a richer form of communication than a static billboard and giving advertisers one-to-one interactive relationships with their target markets in a format that's much more deployable than other forms of interactive advertising," Mr. Rebh said. Letting consumers opt in to sound serves another purpose, he acknowledged, by not annoying store workers who would otherwise hear spiels all day.

Participating stores get a 25% cut of revenues, which amounts to half of gross profit, he said. Floorgraphics handles sales, installation and maintenance of floor ads in every chain where they now exist, he said, except at Wal-Mart Stores, which took back control of its floor advertising after Floorgraphics ran a pilot program there.

Animated floor space won't cost more, but Mr. Rebh said production costs are higher, which he believes will lead advertisers to buy longer programs than the one or two 28-day cycles now common.

He also touts animated ads, which can incorporate frames from TV ads, as an economical extender for TV copy. "You can only run a television campaign for relatively short periods of time because of the expense," he said, "but you can extend that campaign through floor advertising for several months."

But Mr. Yengo said: "It's a rare case where your TV works well in a non-TV medium. It can be done, but I would think of even the animated floor graphics as being more an extension of print."

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